Learned Helplessness

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1 LP 5E 1 Learned Helplessness Dogs were classically conditioned to associate a tone to the pain of an electric shock. In order to do this, the dogs were harnessed and could not avoid electric shocks. It was expected that the dogs would be undergoing operant conditioning (negative reinforcement) to avoid the electric shocks. However, when the harnesses were removed, the dogs nothing to escape the electric shocks. Dogs that were not harnessed learned to avoid electric shocks by jumping over a barrier. The dog s reacted by being passive and not escaping the electric shocks when unharnessed. Martin Seligman described this behavior as learned helplessness. Learned helplessness: A phenomenon in which repeated exposure to inescapable, uncomfortable, or uncontrollable aversive events produce passive behavior.

2 Learned Helplessness: Martin Seligman and the Dogs: LP 5E 2 Dogs are Harnessed Dogs are unharnessed Electric Shocks are delivered Electric shocks are delivered Dogs try to escape, but cannot Dogs do not try to escape Dogs don t try to escape an adverse condition (even when they can) because they have learned in the past that any attempt doesn t help.

3 LP 5E 3 Learned Helplessness and Voting: Fewer people are turning out to vote People vote for candidates based on how they feel about the candidate and not on issues Politicians are elected on an emotional appeal and not on issues voters want addressed and lobbyists have a strong influence on voting. Political issues do not get addressed.

4 LP 5E 4 What are real-life examples of learned helplessness (and perhaps their cause)? Political process: People are becoming discouraged with the political process and not turning out to vote because nothing gets done. Weight loss programs: There are so many weight loss programs (including those that use hypnosis Chapter 4) that are ineffective that they discourage people. Studying for class: Students with poor study skills or are using ineffective strategies start to give up on their classes and resign themselves to poor grades. Stopping Attacks on American Troops: American troops are under constant attack by Iraqis. Killing Saddam Huessin s sons (Uday and Kusay) will probably lead to learned helplessness because it fails to understand why our troops are not seen as liberators. What are common examples where learned helplessness can occur? Dating War on Terrorism Dealing with problems of CEOs and CFOs cooking the books Getting a job Not having the job skills or connections Rules not being applied equally or fairly Rules created to bias a particular group based on criteria irrelevant to the job.

5 LP 5E 5 Example of observational learning Newton is very aggressive and greedy when it comes to food. Another one of our dogs, Tuffy is a very good and obedient dog (of course he is mine). My sister taught Tuffy to give us a hug. He understood this as a gesture of love and friendship (if the word applies to dogs). One day, Newton saw Tuffy give a hug and received a treat. Newton quickly learned this trick because food was involved. However, it was unclear that he learned that that this was a gesture of love and friendship. Newton imitated the behavior, but didn't understand the reasons for this behavior. Likewise, Kris s German shepherd (Xena, Warrior Princess) learned how to open doors by moving her paws up and down next to the doorknob. I joke that we need to quarantine his dog or else she will teach other dogs how to open doors by watching her. Four cognitive processes interact to determine whether imitation of behavior will occur: Paying attention to another's behavior. Remembering the behavior to be imitated. Transforming the mental representation of the observed behavior into actions you can reproduce. Motivation to imitate the behavior. (see Table 5.6 to see factors that affect the motivation to imitate behavior)

6 LP 5E 6 Observational learning Many behaviors are not learned through classical conditioning or operant conditioning. Learning that occurs through observing the actions of others. What is the evidence? Albert Bandura and the Bobo doll. Group 1: Group 2: Group 3: Children observed adults reinforced for their aggressive behavior with the Bobo doll. Children observed adults punished for their aggressive behavior with the Bobo doll. Children observed adults their aggressive behavior with no consequences. After watching the adult interact with the Bobo doll, the children were allowed to play with the Bobo doll, Did all of the children imitate the adults and display aggressive behavior? Did all of the children learn the aggressive behavior? Why would a behaviorist (Watson and Skinner) make a different prediction of whether the child would learn aggressive behavior?

7 LP 5E 7 What are examples of observational learning in the realworld? When learning how to perform surgery or other medical procedures, you learn by watching others perform it (and then practice it yourself). If we see someone being censured or fired for disagreeing with the boss, we learn by observation what the acceptable behavior is, and self-censor ourselves. o If we observe Whistle-blowers such as Colleen Rowley (FBI), Sherron Watkins (Enron) and Cynthia Cooper (Worldcom) being punished for their behavior (telling what they know) o What if the consequences (good or bad) are not made public? If we observe Kenneth Lay or Jeffrey Skilling and other CEOs reinforced for their behavior If we observe Kenneth Lay and other CEOs punished for their behavior If we are worried that people will learn aggressive behavior by watching others on television, what about other behaviors learned through advertising (eg. driving your SUV recklessly or irresponsible drinking) After watching Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2 remove a crossbow bolt from his leg, some people incorrectly learn that this is the way to treat a puncture wound while waiting for medical treatment. If you observe your parents, friends or coworker lie, what factors influence whether or not you are going to imitate their behavior?

8 LP 5E 8 Factors that increase the likelihood of imitation 1. People who are rewarded for their behavior. 2. Warm, nurturing people. 3. People who have control over you or have the power to influence your life (such as supervisors and parents). 4. People who are similar to you in terms of age, gender, and interests. 5. People you perceive as having higher social status. 6. When the task to be imitated is not extremely difficult or easy. 7. If you lack the confidence in your own abilities in a particular situation. 8. If the situation is ambiguous or unfamiliar. 9. If you've been reinforced for imitating the same behavior in the past.

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